Born: 28 March 1867, Paris
Died: 24 February 1928, Nice
The Frenchman born in 1867 was, Edmond Clement and he was as unlike our two previous Frenchman, Affre and Escalais as it was possible to be.
He was in fact a Prince of lyric tenors, all elegance, charm, and style, so characteristic of the great French singer of the day, such as Morrell, Consom, Feujier, Journee and Renault.
His very first appearance in the opera, was in the lead in Gouna’s Opera, maurere at the opera comique in 1889, and there he stayed as a permanent member of the company for the next 21 years, appearing in all lyric roles of the French repertoire.
His exquisite taste as a vocalist and his great natural talent as an actor, made him an idol of the French public and critics alike, and his fellow colleagues at the opera comique during this time, included many of the greatest names in French vocal history; Morell, Litvine, Sivil Sanderson, Delmat, Renault, Calvi, Muratore, Gevourrieche, Maggie Tate and Mary Garden.
In 1909, he accepted an engagement at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, where his rival tenors included Caruso, Bonche, Slezak and Yarlouker, not bad to be going on with.
Not only was he a favorite with the audience and critics alike but also of the darling of the Metropolitan Opera, Geraldine Farah, who described him as an artist of the most exquisite taste and dramatic elegance.
So, for our first record, why not hear these two wonderful artists together.
In 1910 he sang in a famous performance at the metropolitan of Verde’s Falstaff, conducted by Toscannini and which included Scotte, Destin, Alder, Homer, Dedour and Peenicosse.
He resigned from the metropolitan after a disagreement over choice of repertoire and joined the Boston Opera Company, only perhaps to find that he had jumped from the proverbial frying pan into the fire.
As his tenor rivals now included John McCormick, Basse, Yadloucker, Zenetello, Dalmorez and Martinelli, truly this was a golden age of tenors.
He remained with them for three seasons, returning to France at the outbreak of the First World War.
He was wounded in action and continued his career on the concert platform until 1927.
He died in Nice at the age of 60 in February 1928.
Here he is in his lyric element, the Dream from Masnie’s Opera, Manon.
I have always found myself comparing Clément voice with Melvas. To my ears, they are the purest, cleanest voices to be heard on records. Both emit a pure firm, seamless sound without a trace of vibrato or wobble. Both are perfect examples of correct voice production.
Clément recorded for three companies, Odeon, Pathe and Victor. The American victor recordings, 17 in all, made during 1911 to 1913, are by far his best. And it is these that you are hearing.
The last example is a duet again and this gives me the excuse to introduce one of France’s greatest basses.
To digress just for a moment, the French produced six wonderful early day singers and then completely dried up. Anyway, here with Clément is one of the best of the six, Marcel Journee.
Let John Stein take up the story.
One of their duet’s is a long, rather jolly piece from Robert the devil by Mierbierre.
Again, Clement shows the way. The square hearty music is treated with elegance and becomes acceptable. Smooth unaspirated runs that added grace of an occasional trill, the dash of a well-executed arpeggio, the record provides a model of pure, tasteful and unaffected style and they must not be surprised that it was from France of this period, that such a model should have come.